2013 Spring Preview
Biggest QB Battles
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Top Spring QB Battles No. 1 to 10
While spring drills are employed for many things, absolutely nothing excites a fan base more than a good old-fashioned quarterback competition. Sure, there may be openings all over the depth chart, but when multiple players are vying to become the face of the offense, it has a penchant for commanding maximum attention.
Coach speak would have you believe that every job is up for grabs this time of year. Technically, that might be true. Realistically, there are a finite number of battles that will truly be heated during the months of March and April. It’s during this time of the year that leads are secured, jobs are won and young stars begin to introduce themselves to an unaware public.
Head coach Kevin Wilson has the Hoosiers moving in the right direction ever so gradually. His 2012 edition was like a poor man’s Oklahoma State, building depth at quarterback once the starter was lost to injury. After budding star Tre Roberson suffered a season-ending broken leg in September, JUCO transfer Cameron Coffman and rookie Nate Sudfeld combined to throw 22 touchdown passes.
Roberson is no doubt the future in Bloomington, but the injury was severe, so he’ll have to first prove there are no lingering effects. Meanwhile, Coffman, and to a lesser extent Sudfeld, will attempt to use spring drills as an opportunity to further develop chemistry with an underrated and exciting collection of Indiana pass-catchers.
Lining up in the wake of Ryan Nassib, the program’s best quarterback since Donovan McNabb was in Upstate New York, is, well, uncertainty. Lots and lots of uncertainty for new head coach Scott Shafer. The three contenders who’ll help usher in a new era in the ACC, senior Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder and sophomore Terrel Hunt, have together completed 4-of-6 passes for 49 yards.
Loeb seems to make the most sense simply because he’s been a part of the Orange for the past four years, and prepared as the backup in 2012. However, Hunt brings an added dimension and versatility to the attack. He’s long and lean, with the foot speed to break containment and hurt opposing defenses on the ground.
Someone will eventually flourish behind center now that Sonny Dykes is calling the shots in Strawberry Canyon. But who gets first dibs on the opening left by the graduation of Zach Maynard? While the Bears harbor a slew of bodies at the position, ranging from senior Allan Bridgford to incoming rookie Jared Goff, no one on the roster has thrown more than one career touchdown pass at this level.
There’ll be a lot of mentoring taking place between spring drills and the opener, especially as Cal installs Dykes’ new Air Raid system. The highest ceiling among the contenders could belong to redshirt freshman Zach Kline, who arrived in Berkeley a year ago ranked No. 4 nationally among prep pocket passers.
17. NC State
The first signee of the Dave Doeren era was Jacoby Brissett, but the Florida transfer won’t become available to the Pack until 2014. Duking it out this spring to supplant Mike Glennon will be sophomore Manny Stocker, last year’s backup, and Pete Thomas, who began his career at Colorado State. A former three-star recruit from Tom O’Brien’s final class, Stocker was elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart after Tyler Brosius opted to transfer out of Raleigh.
Thomas is an intriguing option for Doeren. The 6-5, 225-pounder, who’s built an awful lot like Glennon, started 21 games in Fort Collins, throwing for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns. However, he was also picked off 21 times, which will have to change if he plans on being the opening day starter.
16. Oregon State
After juggling between senior Cody Vaz and junior Sean Mannion in 2012, head coach Mike Riley is looking for more stability behind center this fall. Mannion was the clear-cut starter when the year began, but was sidelined for a pair of games with a knee injury, creating an opportunity for Vaz to impress.
A bum ankle to Vaz thrust Mannion back into the spotlight, but his unpredictable behavior continued in November. In the end, both hurlers performed erratically, something Riley and the staff will be looking to change in practice. The Beavers boast depth and experience at the most important position on the field. But it remains to be seen if they house the kind of week-in, week-out leader who can keep the program in Pac-12 North contention.
Sure, with a new quarterback comes uncertainty, but after the Hawkeyes ranked 112th nationally in passing efficiency, change won’t be such a bad thing in Iowa City. Beginning on March 27, the staff will audition three inexperienced quarterbacks, junior Cody Sokol, sophomore Jake Rudock and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard. None of the three have attempted a pass at the FBS level.
Sokol begins his second year at Iowa after transferring from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. While Rudock was the backup in 2012, the durability of James Vandenberg and a lack of development nixed any opportunities to take a single snap. Beathard impressed as a member of the scout team, and was consistently cited by the coaching staff for his leadership and maturity.
14. Michigan State
Head coach Mark Dantonio has been outspoken in his support of his senior quarterback, but can the incumbent actually hold off the competition for six months? The journey for Maxwell begins in the spring. He labored as the successor to Kirk Cousins, playing ineffectively as the point man for one of the country’s poorest passing teams.
Just itching for an opportunity to relegate Maxwell to the bench will be sophomore Connor Cook, who made appearances in three games as a rookie, and freshmen Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry. O’Connor was the 23rd-ranked recruit of 2012, while Terry was No. 9 this past February. It’s Maxwell’s job to lose, but that’s exactly what he’ll do if he fails to elevate the level of his play.
Having leased veteran Matt Scott for one year, head coach Rich Rodriguez must now develop a new quarterback to run his read-option attack in Tucson. The holdover among a wave of transfers is senior B.J. Denker, an athletic southpaw who needed a stop at Cerritos (Calif.) College before becoming Pac-12-ready. He actually started last year’s Colorado game for an injured Scott, going 12-of-14 for 136 yards and two scores.
Trying to keep Denker from moving up a rung on the depth chart will be Jesse Scroggins and Nick Isham. Scroggins is the former big-armed, four-star recruit of USC who did an apprenticeship at El Camino (Calif.) Junior College last fall. He has two years of eligibility left. Isham is a wild card, with experience. The undersized scrapper started seven games as a rookie for Louisiana Tech in 2011 before getting bumped in favor of Colby Cameron.
12. Kansas State
The race to replace Collin Klein in Manhattan became a whole lot more interesting on Signing Day. Yeah, the inside track still belongs to sophomore Daniel Sams, last season’s backup. Not only is No. 4 one of the country’s fastest quarterbacks, but he also earned valuable reps last fall, rushing for 235 yards and three scores.
The Cats spiced things up, though, with the recent signing of Jake Waters, one of the most coveted junior-college hurlers. The JUCO All-American at Iowa Western Community College completed 73% of his passes for 39 touchdowns and 3,501 yards, while getting picked just three times. Although Waters is about to endure a major step up in weight class, he has the blend of smarts and leadership to fit in quickly on a Bill Snyder team.
11. Penn State
A new era at quarterback is set to begin in Happy Valley. With the graduation of Matt McGloin, head coach Bill O’Brien gets three new pupils to begin molding, two of whom are from the latest recruiting class. Tyler Ferguson becomes the rare junior-college transfer to matriculate at Penn State, bringing a live arm and quick feet to the competition. He’ll be a full season behind true sophomore Steven Bench, a lightly-recruited prospect out of Georgia.
Of course, the competition in the spring just might be to determine the backup for blue-chipper Christian Hackenberg, who arrives in the summer. The five-star recruit resisted the temptation to back out of his original commitment, and will team up with O’Brien to give the Lions a formidable coach-quarterback marriage for the foreseeable future.
Top Spring QB Battles No. 1 to 10